Congressman aims to end tech's 'deeply disturbing' antitrust behavior

Congress (Image credit: Louis Velazquez)

What you need to know

  • Representative David Cicilline gave an interview on Wednesday.
  • The congressman, who led last month's antitrust hearing with tech CEOs, says Congress must take action.
  • According to Cicilline, the antitrust investigation has proven all four companies abused their power.

Representative David Cicilline, who led the antitrust hearing that heard from the CEOs of Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon, is preparing to deliver his recommendations about reigning in the technology company as soon as next month.

Reported by Bloomberg, Cicilline said in an interview on Wednesday that Congress's yearlong investigation has, for him, confirmed that all four companies are abusing their market power and that Congress must act against them.

"All of these companies engage in behavior which is deeply disturbing and requires Congress to take action," said Cicilline, the chairman of the House antitrust panel conducting the inquiry. "The kind of common theme is the abuse of their market power to maintain their market dominance, to crush competitors, to exclude folks from their platform and to earn monopoly rents."

As to what Congress will attempt to do to change how the companies operate, Cicilline says that Democrats and Republicans will be working together to implement the "biggest, boldest ideas I can."

Cicilline's comments are the most extensive yet on where his committee is focused as it nears the end of its year-long investigation. While he declined to go into detail about the panel's recommendations, Cicilline said he is working to find common ground with Republicans on the "biggest, boldest ideas I can."

One of the main ideas that has continued to gain steam is to not allow a company to own the app store that it also competes in. This would potentially separate Apple from the App Store, Google from the Play Store, and Amazon from its marketplace.

Cicilline declined to specifically endorse the idea of separating functions of platform companies, but said in a separate Bloomberg TV interview that it's a "really interesting idea" that's worth careful consideration. "That's a big idea," he said about separating the two functions. "It would be one way to try to separate out what is a relationship fraught with conflicts that I think is promoting tremendous market dominance and bullying behavior by Amazon, as an example."

Cicilline says that they may issue the report as soon as next month and focus on antitrust reform as well as giving watchdogs like the Justice Department and FTC more power.

The committee's report will address four broad areas, he said: changes to existing antitrust laws passed more than a century ago; reforms aimed specifically at the tech sector; strengthening private antitrust litigation by plaintiffs; and ensuring antitrust watchdogs at the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission have the resources to do their jobs and are staffed by aggressive enforcers.

Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon have not yet responded to requests for comment.

Joe Wituschek